The long-promised high-speed train between Chengdu and Shanghai will begin running on January 11.
The train will complete the journey in 15 hours and will stop in Chongqing along the way.
But the opening is not without controversy. When photos of the train's super-luxurious first-class cabins appeared in the media, alongside their ticket prices of up to RMB2330, the public and scholars voiced their disapproval.
The cabins are outfitted with sofas, coffee tables, televisions, and wardrobes.
During Spring Festival and other peak travel times, migrant workers are left buying standing-room-only train tickets in order to return home—if they're able to obtain any tickets at all. Critics question the logic in diverting a disproportionately large amount of train capacity to ultra luxurious cabins that might be underutilized anyway, given their cost compared to airfare, when demand for low-cost train seats far exceeds supply.
A full-price plane ticket to Shanghai from Chengdu or Chongqing is approximately RMB1500. But passengers can often find discounted airfare, with rates as low as 20 percent of the full price.
In addition to the first-class cabins, each train has 496 soft sleeper berths. Ticket prices are RMB1035 (upper berth) and RMB1165 (lower berth). The remaining 112 seats are soft seats with a ticket price of RMB501 from Chengdu to Shanghai.
From Chongqing to Shanghai, the ticket prices are as follows: Soft seat tickets will cost RMB473, and soft sleepers will cost RMB1035 (upper berth) and RMB1165 (lower berth).
So far, ticket sales have been underwhelming, according to this report.
In related news, construction on the 519-kilometer Chengdu-Guiyang railway kicked off late last month. The track, which will pass through Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou, is expected to be in operation by 2015 and will reduce the current 11-hour Chengdu-Guizhou trip to approximately three hours.